Our Justice System Should Be Smarter and Smaller - Not Privatised
"Nothing short of shambolic" uttered the softly spoken Sir Alan Beith MP, chairman of the Justice Select Committee, as he was passing judgement on the government's handling of court interpretation services.
This service may sound like a minor detail, but failing to provide an interpreter at the right time can lead to victims and their families, some of whom will have waited years for a case to come to court, see the trial collapse before their very eyes. Similarly, innocent people can languish in remand cells while the courts struggle to find an interpreter. These, according to the committee's report, have formed just part of the litany of failings in a poorly managed outsourcing process, which has wasted taxpayers' money and court time, while being unfair to victims and suspects alike.
This should not be happening. Much as interpretation services require the dedicated work of highly skilled professionals, the service itself is comparatively straightforward. You get the right interpreter to the right court at the right time. Sounds doable? Well, for the private contractor involved, it seems not.
Probation on the other hand, is an exceptionally complex service: how you get to the bottom of why someone is committing crime, supervise them in the community and help them turn away from a life of crime. The Probation Service is tasked with changing the lives of some of the most troubled people in our society, many of whom will have been in prison, experienced mental health issues, been victims of drug and alcohol abuse or grown up in a violent home.
If private firms can't even deal with interpretation services effectively, should they be trusted with the intricacies of navigating these far more difficult functions of the justice system? Mr Grayling certainly believes so, with a privatised probation scheme making up a key plank of his 'rehabilitation revolution.'